For those refined gentlepeople who prefer the cerebral grace of baseball to the plebian savagery of football, October is the greatest of months. Will Leitch looks at each of the eight playoff combatants. Now up: The Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox clinched their postseason berth at 1 a.m. on September 30. They'd just lost to the Blue Jays and had to wait for the Rangers to lose their West Coast game until they could "celebrate." It was not exactly a wild bash. Here is how the Red Sox went crazy:
"Once the Red Sox lost, there was a bizarre feeling in the clubhouse. Some players packed up and went home, while others milled around and watched the Rangers-Angels game on television. Ortiz said he would go out to a local establishment and then return to Fenway if the Rangers gave him reason to celebrate. Rookie reliever Daniel Bard went to his apartment across the street to have a late-night dinner, but he was prepared to return and enjoy the clinching moment with his teammates."
It has been that sort of season for the Red Sox. They have chugged along, winning enough to outlast an uninspiring group of wild-card challengers, never really making the Yankees sweat, as uninspiring as a 95-win season can possibly be. Almost every Red Sox fan I talk to is far from optimistic about the postseason. It just doesn't have that feel, one told me.
This is a unique luxury for Red Sox fans, this notion that this year's team isn't the team, one that no other team's fans can possibly understand. (And after a year off from the postseason, that includes the Yankees.) It's a privilege to make the playoffs, a rarity, and that Pink Hat Nation generally seems more exhausted by his season than invigorated speaks to just how far they've come since 2004, since Johnny Damon was bearded, since that incredibly brief time in human history where the rest of the nation found the Red Sox likable. It doesn't have that feel. Please.
That is to say: Bah! The mad rugby scrum that is the baseball postseason has no time or patience for protestations of what is RIGHT and what is POSSIBLE. Certainly — here comes the Cardinals reference! — there are other teams than the 2006 version of the Cardinals that I would have desired to win the big pennant-spiky trophy. That didn't stop me from losing my shit when they pulled it off. The tsunami can strike anyone at any time. If the Red Sox beat the Angels and make the ALCS, who will even remember the regular season? Who will even remember it by ALDS Game Two?
I'm about to write something that will make you nauseous, so I apologize in advance. But: Doesn't this decade deserve another Yankees-Red Sox ALCS? Isn't that where all this is going? This has been the decade of Tiger Woods, of Lance Armstrong, of Tom Brady, of Favre of Favre of Favre, the decade in which we recognized brilliance, and then we recognized it again, and then we bashed it against the wall and pushed it in everyone's faces over and over and over and over. This has been the decade of overkill, the This Is The Greatest Super Bowl Ever and This Is The Greatest Gunslinger Ever and This Is The Greatest Rivalry Ever. It wouldn't be right to end this decade with a modest Twins-Angels ALCS. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry transmogrified into the pulsating, tentacled mega-monster this decade, and it changed everything. It caused the sports networks to ignore any team west of the northeast corridor. It raised baseball salaries to unimaginable levels. It inspired everyone to start using steroids, and then pretend like they were stopping. It has dwarfed everything else in baseball over the last 10 years. None of us has been able to escape it. It has been the one part of baseball that resembles football. It is not humble and welcoming. It is loud and exclusionary. It is AROD AND JETER VERSUS PAPI AND MANNY TONIGHT ON FOXXXXXXX!!!!! It is exceptionalism and imperialism and everything that makes you want to throw your television across the room.
That all happened this decade. Doesn't it have to end that way? Could it possibly end any other?
See? Told you you'd get sick.